Sustainable Waste Management Infrastructure for Small and Medium Towns of Developing Countries: A Case Study of India

By Marimuthu Sundaravadivel and Saravanamuthu Vigneswaran.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Liberalised economic policies of developing countries in the recent decades have accelerated the pace of economic growth and urbanisation. However, urban growth without adequate waste management infrastructure, the first line of defence against the effects of environmental impacts of economic development, is undermining the social and economic gains that have been realised by development in these countries. While the waste management problems of large cities of developing countries are understood, similar issues of smaller towns have not gained much attention. In countries like India, apart from large cities, there are more than 3000 small towns (referred to as ‘semi-urban areas - SUAs’) with population less than 100,000 comprising an aggregate urban population of over 75 million. Waste management infrastructure in these towns are woefully inadequate. As fully recognized urban entities, waste management issues of small towns represent the case of inadequate provision of infrastructure, rather than the issues of urban poverty and legality that are normally associated with slums/ squatter settlements of large cities.

In this paper, the waste management issues of SUAs of India are evaluated through a review of current policies and practices. To overcome the issues, multi-disciplinary strategies encompassing technological, economic and financial aspects of waste management are suggested. The results of an attempt made to apply the suggested strategies in the context of four small towns in Tamil Nadu, a southern State of India are described. An integrated wastewater and solid waste management approach is developed for these towns to overcome technological constraints, and to effect improvements at lower costs. The results of a contingent valuation survey conducted in these towns support the suggested ‘demand-driven’ approach to assess household demand and preferences about improved waste management in SUAs. The findings confirm the need for the adoption of low-cost technologies to match the communities’ ‘willingness to pay’ so as to achieve economic efficiency and financial sustainability through full cost recovery.

Keywords: India, Small Towns, Sewage Treatment, Municipal Solid Wastes, Economic Appraisal

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.63-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 644.457KB).

Dr Marimuthu Sundaravadivel

Senior Planner, Strategic Water Management Unit, NSW Department of Commerce, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Dr. Sundaravadivel is a Civil/Environmental Engineer with a doctoral degree in environmental economics and policies. He has wide ranging professional environmental experience including government, regulatory and consulting services. His major professional interest and expertise include integrated water cycle management, strategic environmental planning, low-cost liquid and solid waste treatment technologies and economic and financial appraisal for sustainability. He has published 3 books (including constrcuted wetlands, rainwater harvesting) and more than 40 journal and conference papers. Currently, he is a Senior Strategic Planner with the Department of Commerce, Government of NSW, Australia.

Professor Saravanamuthu Vigneswaran

Professor, Faculty of Engineering & Institute for Water and Environmental Resources Management (IWERM), University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Professor S. Vigneswaran has worked at the forefront of international research into water and wastewater treatment and reuse since 1976. During the last twenty years, he has made significant contributions to the understanding of physico-chemical water treatment processes such as filtration, flocculation, membrane-filtration and adsorption. His research activities both on new processes development and mathematical modeling are documented in leading Journals such as Water Research, American Institute of Chemical Engineers Journal, Chemical Engineering Science, Journal of American Society of Civil Engineers and Journal of Membrane Science. He is the author of two books in this field at the invitation of CRC press, USA in 1989 and 1995. He recently authored a book on Environmental Management Highlight Sustainable Solutions. He has published more than 280 papers in journals and conference proceedings. He has been the Key Note or plenary speaker at a number of International Conferences. He was awarded the Fellowship to work with leading R&D laboratories in France, Japan and Korea. In 1999, he was invited by UNESCO Paris to serve as Honorary Theme Editor of the Section on Water Reuse and Small community Water Supplies in their Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems. He was a visiting Fellow and honorary Professor at Syracuse University, USA and UNESCO Centre for Membrane Technology of University of NSW in 1985/86 and 1997/98 in recognition of his contribution to the field of filtration and membrane processes. He was Founding Coordinator of the University Key Research Strength in Water and Waste Management (1997-2000). He is also Deputy Director of the Institute of Water and Environmental Resources Management at UTS.

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